The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today marks 70 years since the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The Ear commemorates the event with Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” What music would you choose? | August 6, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is August 6, 2015 – the 70th anniversary of the United States dropping the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in the hope of ending World War II. (That took a second atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.)

Controversy still rages about whether it was the right decision to make.

The Ear has an opinion about that, but is keeping it to himself.

All he wants to do today is commemorate the historic event with music.


First, as background, here is a story from The Washington Post about what it was like to survive the bombing of Hiroshima:,

I can’t think of a better piece of music to listen to this day than the sadly eloquent, heart-wrenching and poignant Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (below), which is at the bottom in a YouTube video and is performed by Leonard Bernstein conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The moving music does not take sides, but simply expresses profound sorrow.

Samuel Barber 2 composing

Perhaps you have other choices for this day. Maybe a chorale from a passion or cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach? Maybe an aria by George Frideric Handel? Perhaps a Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Johannes Brahms, Giuseppe Verdi or Gabriel Faure? Maybe the  Ninth Symphony “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig van Beethoven or the Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” by Gustav Mahler? Maybe the opera “Doctor Atomic” by John Adams?

Leave your thoughts and choice in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. My HS Orchestra will be performing the Threnody this coming fall in commemoration of the 70th anniversary. Immediately afterward we will play the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony, finishing with the Berceuse & Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird. The students will learn, I hope, a bit about history and more from this program.

    Comment by Steve Kurr — August 8, 2015 @ 8:58 pm

  2. Shostakovich, 8th String Quartet.

    Comment by slfiore — August 6, 2015 @ 9:50 am

  3. Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8, which some associate with the firebombing of Dresden, although written several years later.

    Comment by Ronnie Hess — August 6, 2015 @ 9:02 am

  4. Yes, Mikko has it spot on. This piece, which I do have a CD of, was specifically written to memorialize this event. Since the score is highly idiosyncratic, the piece varies in its specifics from performance to performance. The wailing effect from the notation used for the strings is NEVER lost, however. Anyone interested in a truly unique and culturally important piece can find a study score of it, and read while listening. Here is a link to that item, cost is only 7.95

    A bit cheaper than the price of the experience the world went through, eh? MBB

    Comment by 88melter — August 6, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  5. the Japanese folk song, Sakura, played on the koto. It reminds me of the transience and beauty of life and cherry blossoms and is a sad melody that would honor the fallen and burned.

    Sent from Surface

    Comment by martiphillips — August 6, 2015 @ 7:43 am

  6. I’d choose Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” with its echoes of “Nimrod”.

    Comment by Ann Boyer — August 6, 2015 @ 7:21 am

  7. I’ll be the first to mention Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.”

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — August 6, 2015 @ 12:06 am

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